The venue is one of the most important features of your wedding.
And very likely one of the first decisions you’ll make during wedding planning. The happy couple is the star of the show, with the venue set as the magical cinematic backdrop to help make everything shine. There’s no lights-camera-action without first choosing the wedding venue, because you need to know where those “lights” and “cameras” and “actions” are going to fit.
In keeping with the cinematic analogy, are you a:
Monica and Chandler from Friends (keeps it classic and traditional)
Araminta and Peter in Crazy Rich Asians (endless amounts of G-L-A-M)
Leslie and Ben from Parks and Rec (simple and on the fly, at a city park or hall)
Bella and Edward (admit it, you know you loved their gorgeous forest wedding)
Or perhaps you envision yourself in an extravagant hotel, barefoot on the beach, or anything in between.
We’ve created a set of handy planning spreadsheets for you to use, including one for wedding venue comparisons. This will help ensure that you have the venue to match the look, feel, and needs of the rest of your wedding plans. We’re going to deep dive into our tips & tricks for selecting your dream venue
Some things you’ll want to consider as you begin your venue research are:
- What’s your preferred time of year & ideal weather?
- Do you want an indoor or outdoor venue?
- Do you want one venue to host both the ceremony and reception?
- How many guests are you hoping to fit?
- What’s your wedding style: a hotel, a hall, a farm, or a non-traditional location?
First thing’s first! We recommend taking a look back on the previous weddings that you’ve attended, and consider what were your favorite locations and which ones weren’t quite your vibe. It’s also important to think about how much effort you want to put into your venue. If you would prefer to customize the overall look, a venue with more of a blank slate is a great option. However, if you want the venue to speak for itself and not spend a ton of $ on decorations, then perhaps a woodsy, outdoor wedding may be more your jam.
The next important topic to discuss with your partner is, of course, where you want to get hitched. You’ll want to make sure it’s a place that’s special to both of you, while keeping your guests’ experience in mind. Do you keep the venue local, or go out of town to a destination city? If most of your loved ones are nearby, then a local wedding means that most guests could drive to your venue, or easily book alternative transportation. If you decide to get married out of town, some things to keep in mind when you’re choosing the location are:
- Cost of travel to the city: Be reasonable when considering how much your guests can afford, especially if the wedding is soon.
- Guest lodging and transportation: Will the venue provide lodging? How are guests expected to arrive at the venue?
- Other activities for guests to do before and after the wedding: How long might guests stay in town? It’s best to provide some options for fun for before/after the wedding.
- The venue budget: We would argue that money is the biggest determining factor when choosing a venue. Your venue budget should be based on guest count, wedding style, and your total wedding budget. Keep in mind that your venue (plus catering) will likely come to about 40% of your total budget.
Once you have a general idea of what venue you’re looking for and how much you can spend, start listing out your favorite sites in the Venue Comparison worksheet. This is where organization reigns supreme. Our handy Venue Comparison worksheet helps track your desired venues and every single detail surrounding them. This is going to give you a high level view of all considerations for when you’re ready to make a decision.
Pro tip: Search for venues you like online & look for photographers’ blog posts of weddings hosted at these venues. This will give you an idea of what your wedding could look like from different lenses.
If you have a wedding planner, this is the perfect time to ask for their assistance. You can give them your priority list, and they’ll find all of the possible venues for you. Otherwise, there’s some great resources online to help you sort through potential venues by location, like WeddingWire.
You’ll need to contact venues to get an idea on their availability, restrictions, and costs. There are spaces in the worksheet to take note of what the venue has to offer in terms of amenities (is it furnished? Is there outside accessibility? Lodging?). You’ll also want to watch out for what restrictions the venue has regarding food and beverage, open/close times, animals, for example.
It’s getting really real
Things start to feel real when you schedule your venue visits. Schedule time to visit a few venues to see them in person with your partner, and if you have a wedding planner bring them along too. You can walk through the venue to get an idea of how big the space is and visualize the flow of the event. Other things to take note of during your visit:
- Are there any extra costs the venue could incur (i.e. rentals, paying for a shuttle if there’s no parking)?
- Is there a backup plan for rain? Would you need to rent tents or can you move it inside?
- What time can you set up & when do you have to clean up?
- Are there any noise ordinances?
When it comes time to make your final decision, trust your gut and stick to your budget. Your priorities may change a bit once you start doing your venue research, so make sure to check in with your partner to see how they’re feeling, and if your budget is flexible if needed. For example, if it’s too expensive on a Saturday, maybe a Friday or Sunday wedding would cut costs. And all the while, you can note any changes on the worksheet to keep you organized.
Your wedding day is going to absolutely magical because you’re marrying your best friend, no matter where it happens! But there’s no harm in dreaming big for the venue of your wedding day, so have fun (and stay organized) while you decide.